What is modeling?

The most helpful strategy we can use for the AAC users is Modeling.

But what does Modeling mean?

Modeling signifies pointing to words on the AAC device as you speak. Modeling can be also called Aided Language Simulation, Aided Language Input, or Natural Aided Language. This method brings benefits if it is practiced frequently throughout every day. It is very useful to try to model several reasons to communicate, for example, in discussions and simple interactions.

Modeling is a procedure that has to be used during the entire AAC course. After learning to model, we will use this strategy repeatedly

to encourage the AAC learner to discover the language and start communicating.


To make this subject extremely clear, we are going to talk about what can be done to support the evolution of an AAC user and give advice on how to defeat any difficulties. 

The importance of Modeling

For AAC users, AAC becomes their language, so this is why you should talk to them using AAC! The more you talk using the AAC system, the better and more experienced you will become at it.


It is significant to understand the idea that AAC users may not learn how to completely use their AAC system to communicate if they do not see it used constantly by others in their life. The most reliable way that we can support an AAC user is the use of the AAC system to talk yourself.


With this information from you, the AAC user has the best opportunity to learn how to communicate using its AAC device. In case you do not implement the Modeling method and have big expectations from the AAC user to communicate, using their AAC device alone, then you may be disappointed. We must model as often as we can! Think about how long it will take to learn how to use their AAC device if we only model for a few times a week.

What to focus on when you model?

Here is an important tip: When you model, focus on KEYWORDS and don't put more value on compounding grammatical sentences correctly. Expecting too much represents a huge mistake. 


When we model the keywords in a sentence, it makes us choose the most relevant words needed to emphasize the meaning of the message. 

Imagine modeling this sentence: “I go shop get milk”. It can be seen that this sentence is not grammatically correct but the overall message can be understood. 

The most frequently asked question may be: "How to start from single words to build sentences?" The answer is that selecting keywords as much as possible is a strong way that helps you start without the requirements of having to put an accent on the grammar. I know that it is hard to tolerate seeing incorrect grammar, but we need to understand that it is better to let that go in this situation. As long as they are constantly practicing, their grammar will improve.


To model keywords instead of grammatical structures is essential because this is how some AAC users will expand their abilities to communicate. They are likely to say and communicate to us in key words before they start composing sentences, much the same as all children develop language!

We have to think that like any other children in the world, they also have to communicate using keywords first.

The negative aspects of focusing on modeling the grammar

①  Modeling grammatically correct can make us feel overwhelmed because we may not have access to the proper words on an AAC device to be able to form a complete sentence.

②  We can believe that we are bad at modeling and that it is too hard for us. 

③  Because of concentrating on grammar, we may forget that keywords are a fresh start in building our language modeling. We need to get more familiar with the AAC device and inspire the AAC user to start using it more.

④  Like in real life, nobody has that much time to form complex grammatical sentences. We always want to get the information across because it is the easiest way. We have to bear in mind that this is important for AAC users too. 


What should we model?

To provide lots of modeling of the core words, we have to present AAC users how to use core words in different ways, in different word combinations to express different things.


It is so important to model the language to be able to start conversations, make comments, describe things, actions, ask questions, give opinions. 

We recommend that you should model words that are above the AAC user's current skill level. 

First, model at the single word level. If the AAC user is not using the device to communicate in particular words, we have to model at the single word level. 


Let's say that you’re leaving the house to go to the supermarket.

How do you say it verbally?

“I have to go to the supermarket.” 

How do you model this sentence?

You have to press the “GO” button on the AAC device when you say the word “GO”.

After the AAC user makes a progress, you can add a new word when modeling.

For example: If you’re leaving the house to go to the park you can verbally say: “Let’s go to the park”.

While you speak, you press the “GO” button and the “PARK” button.

Consider your AAC user's language level, what they can do now, and their communication functions. Please consider how varied their vocabulary is, how many words they're putting together on. Think about skills that are above their current skill level.


What should we model? It's a common question asked by parents. It depends on your user's current independent language level. ⁣

We want to demonstrate skills above their current level, so you need to consider where your AAC user is now.⁣ If the learner uses one word at a time to express needs, then model 2-3 word phrases.⁣ If the user is an excellent requestor but doesn't comment yet, you should model comments!⁣

If the user puts together great sentences, but you don't know if they are in the past, present, or future, it's time to start including –ing and –ed in your models. 

There's a lot to consider here. Parents shouldn't feel responsible for all this analysis. Your job is really to make a connection with your kid while using their AAC! 


Modeling Yes/No

Yes and No: these two simple words can carry a conversation. When answering these questions, a child can describe preferences, answer questions, and clearly communicate their wants and needs. It is an essential part of the development in the toddler years when everything seems like a "no!" Accurately answering "yes" and "no" questions can decrease communication's frustration for children with language disorders.


Some tips to try when modeling:

-Highlight your use of head nods or other yes/no response methods by referring verbally to your movements: "I'm moving my head down and up. I'm saying yes".

-Model with another adult so your learner can see the whole interaction without the pressure of being involved.

-Use "think aloud" to give your user insight into your decision process (Is that the one I want? No, that's not it. I'm going to say no.)

Types of Yes/No questions


Preference-based: These are questions that ask you to confirm or refuse something offered using yes/no. 


Begin by asking your child, "Do you want __?" while offering an item. Model "yes" if they show interest or take the thing. Model "no" if they refuse it. 


The best means for this task are highly motivating items. Offer stuff you know they don't like to encourage them to use "no" to reject it. 


Fact-based: These are questions that ask you to confirm or reject a statement about something. It could be the identity of something, "Is this a banana?" or the condition of it, "Are you cold?".


The power of "maybe" while modeling

An excellent strategy is to model language that reflects what you think. An AAC user wants to communicate based on the context and their other communication strategies (body movements, facial expressions, vocalizations).


We aren't "mind readers"!

No matter how well we know them, we don't know what they want to say. Even the people who know us the best don't know what we want to say. For example, parents can also get things wrong if they speak for the child.  

We mustn't pretend our interpretation is correct! 


We want to let the user know that language might help, but we're not diving into conclusions. When we're trying to demonstrate language that might help our learner with a real-time situation, model more than one option, drive in a "maybe" or "perhaps", and wait. If you do this, you could hear something from them that you weren't expecting!⁣


Making modeling choices

1) Consider their viewpoint


You may think about what you should model to help your child learn to use AAC. We want to get the most out of our modeling, so it's important what we choose to model. Here are some modeling tips to help you feel confident in what to model and have the most significant impact on your learner. ⁣

When we model, we want to catch our learners' attention. If they are intent, they will likely learn from what we're doing. One way to get and keep their attention is to talk about something they find interesting or helpful.


They give us hints about what those things might be through what they want to look at, what they interact with, and how they react to things that happen. When we talk about those things, we're more likely to say things they will find interesting.⁣



2) Kid talk and adult talk


Adults can sometimes be boring. The problem is we can't be like that if we wish to get and keep our kids' attention. What should we do instead? Talk like a kid. For example, say silly things. If the learner is a bit older, try some friendly gossip! If you're stuck and even if you're not, pull in some other kids and teach them to model.


What they say is likely to be more enjoyable. If you watch closely, you'll get some ideas on how to change your style. ⁣You realize that you have to be more interesting if you want your AAC user to pay attention. 


Self-talk for behavior

What is self-talk?

In self-talk, the tutor intentionally describes what they are thinking, seeing, hearing, touching, or doing. The teacher links words to actions: "I'm giving each of you a handful of animal crackers. I am placing the crackers in a pile in the center of your napkins." These words are said while the tutor actively passes out the snack, making words like "handful," "placing," and "pile" come alive for the children.


Self-talk is NOT merely using "I" statements, such as, "I am going to tour the zoo tomorrow, and I will feed a giraffe! I love giraffes.'" Why would statements like this be less effective? In this example, a child may not know the word "tour" or "giraffe." Abstractly, these words are said and not made concrete by mapping them to what the child can currently see or experience.


Include positive self-talk comments on the AAC system to address the behavior! 


-Target behaviors that a team is trying to address. They are also positive statements about what to do that direct the learner's attention to the desired action.


-It is easier to intend what to do than what not to do. When a student engages in behavior we are trying to address, we model the self-talk statement while redirecting. For example, we might model "I use my quiet voice" for a student who is too loud for the situation. I find it a positive way to address unwanted behavior without sounding too severe. With repetition, we want to build that cheerful internal voice for a child.


Model without expectation

What does it mean?

-Not prompting or cueing the AAC user to use the device, especially for the specific language.

-Creating an environment of aided language immersion.

-Using AAC to talk without expecting a particular response from your user.

-Limiting questions directed to the AAC user, especially those you know the answer to.

-Focusing on teaching and presentation rather than testing.


Why should you do it?

-Respects the autonomy of your AAC user's communication (they get to pick when and what they communicate).

-Allows the AAC user to observe without the pressure to respond.

-Decreases the risk that the AAC user will experience AAC use as "work" and will continue to use it.

-Establishes a foundation for language learning while allowing a relationship built on connection rather than agreement.

-It provides a wider variety of language models than teaching strategies that focus on a user's expression from the start.


How modeling without expectation looks like?

• Using AAC to talk to your user without expecting them to use AAC in imitation or to respond.

• Using AAC to comment, describe, and reflect on things that happen in the environment.

• Making lots of statements and asking very few questions.

• Verbal referencing your user's actions and modeling related language on their AAC (with lots of "maybe you" and "I wonder if" statements).

• Continuing with an activity even if your user has not responded to what you've said. Just keep modeling.

• Using AAC to talk to your user across the day. Before bed, while watching TV, for example. Not just therapy or class!

• Respect your user's right to communicate what, when, how, and to whom they want.

• Using AAC to talk with other people than your user and letting them observe without any pressure!


How modeling without expectation sounds like?

Here are some examples of what modeling without expectation sounds like. It comes down to using AAC to saying things that naturally occur across the day. Sometimes you're talking to the AAC user, and sometimes you're not. No matter what you say, you don't put pressure on the user to communicate at that moment. You're giving them the gift of seeing and hearing how their language system can be used in real life.


The capitalized words indicate words modeled on the AAC system. For PODD, we use slashes to separate selections. If you use a core-based system, you'll see some core words in those examples you could model.


-"Hahahaha! This movie I THINK IT'S / FUNNY!"

-"Oh, you're pointing at the fridge. I wonder if you FEEL HUNGRY."

-"Pee-ew, your feet are SMELLY. Let's TAKE BATH."

-To another adult: "Hey! You turned off the TV. I DON'T LIKE IT/IT MAKES ME MAD!"

-"I see you standing by the door. Maybe you're thinking GO OUT. That's a great idea!"

-To sibling: "Almost bedtime! I think it's time to BRUSH TEETH."

-"My belly is full. I am ALL DONE eating."

-"I hear your voice. Sounds like SOMETHING'S WRONG/UPSET. You seem upset. Let's figure it out together."

-"Oh, you popped all the bubbles! Let's do MORE BUBBLES!"

-"Hmmm, I wonder WHEN MOM HOME?"